Greeting Them from Afar – Genesis 23:1-20

This is our last message in our study of Abraham. Over the last couple of stories, we have seen the blessings of God upon Abraham’s life. We saw him walk by faith and not by sight. His faith in his God has grown. He has learned that God is the God of blessings, he is Yahweh El Olam, the Everlasting God, and he is Jehovah Jireh, the Provider. We find the death of Abraham in chapter 25, but after the death of Sarah, which is at the heart of the text we are looking at, the focus of the narrative turns to Isaac. God has tested Abraham’s faith, strengthening it and making it shine and now he is ready to run the last leg of his race.
In the story today we find some things that are familiar to us and some things that might cause us to scratch our heads. We know the familiar scene of a loved one mourning at the side of the beloved. We know from experience or we can sympathize with those that have the tough job of making funeral arrangements and preparing for the burial of their loved one. Some of us have experienced that this past year and know all too well what Abraham is going through. This story is a reminder that, if the Lord does not return in our lifetime, death comes for us all. As Spurgeon once said, “The young may die. The old must die.”

This story is also one of promises and perseverance. One of the main themes that I have tried to emphasize to you as we started in Genesis is the promises of God. It started in Genesis chapter 3 and will continue unbroken until the book of Revelation. The promises have been given and now we watch them unfold. But more than just watching them in the word we must strive to make them our own. AW Pink once said, “The bee would not extract honey from the flowers as long as he only gazed upon them.” This is perseverance. Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob are given to us as those that persevered to the end. They heard the promises of God, they saw them but greeted them from afar. Yet, this did not stop them from finishing the race in faith.

Today’s passage divides nicely into five parts. Verses one through two describe the death of Sarah and we will consider the passing of an example. In verses three through six we find Abraham, a man who has lived decades in the land still a sojourner and a foreigner. In verses seven through eleven we see the Hittites willing to give Abraham a cave for burial but in verses 12 through 16 Abraham insists on weighing out the silver (he buys the land). And finally, in verses 17-20 we’ll consider Abraham’s possession and what that means.

The Promised Laughter

The Promised Laughter 17 JAN 2021

We’ve made it to Genesis chapter 21. Aren’t you glad? The last couple of chapters in Genesis have been hard to read through. The graphic portrayals of the depravity of man can be overwhelming. Remember that Shem, Noah’s son is still alive somewhere in the Middle East. He has witnessed his descendants and those of his brothers, descend into wickedness. Like the world before the flood, evil had filled the world and, like the flood, God demonstrated that He will not tolerate sin in the heart of man forever. The destruction of Sodom would stand as a monument to the sinfulness of man and God’s perfect justice. The warning has been issued and mankind is without excuse.

We also saw the effects of sin upon a righteous man that has chosen to stray from the path. Like Christian in A Pilgrim’s Progress, Lot has often taken a path that he ought not to take. Where the right path looked hard and steep and rocky, Lot chose the wrong path because it looked smooth and easy. His choices would not only affect him but his entire family. Lot’s journey was still taking him to the Celestial City, but the path he took was a lot harder than it had to be. Those choices he made would have a sinful outcome in his life, and yet, God was always at work. God would often use the children of Lot to punish the children of Abraham. And yet, God would bring some of those children that came from that horrible sin to be in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. God’s eternal plan contained the sinful rebellious acts of man. Those acts of darkness God used to bring about the great light.

That brings us to Genesis chapter 21, where we read about the promised laughter, Isaac, being born. Finally, we get to read about some joy. We see something good amidst all the darkness. Twenty-five years have passed since Abraham and Sarah made the journey into the land of Canaan. Twenty-five years since the promise of God had first been spoken. Twenty-five years they had to endure as God slowly, piece by piece, revealed the details of the promise. Twenty-five years of this rollercoaster of faith. Finally, the appointed day had arrived. Sarah would have her first and only born son.

But this is a true story and not a fairy tale. Along with the happiness there comes growing jealousy and division in the family. Where there are blessings and joy from God there comes hatred and resentment from the world. And yet, through both God works his plan. God is steadfast.

As we look at the first twenty-one verses of chapter 21, we see them easily divide into two parts. One through 7 tells us of the birth of Isaac, which reminds us that God always fulfills his promises. Eight through twenty-one explains the dissension in the family which leads ultimately to a final separation and we are called to contemplate the fact that God’s loving choice separates us.